November 21, 2019

Commissioners split on raising fairgrounds rental fees

No decision was made when county commissioners discussed raising the fees required to rent out the county fairgrounds at its June 27 commissioners meeting.

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MIO — No decision was made when county commissioners discussed raising the fees required to rent out the county fairgrounds at its June 27 commissioners meeting.

Chairman Kyle Yoder said he is under the impression that the county is not charging enough to use the fairgrounds and the facilities on it.

“We are spending more than we’re making off of the fairgrounds budget,” Yoder said. “The main reason I wanted to look at this is because, at a minimum, there is no reason why we can’t at least make back what we are putting into it.”

Yoder said as of now, it is technically possible to rent out the entire fairgrounds for $75. He said that is due to how the fairgrounds are not generally split when rented out. Therefore, if a person were to rent out one section of the fairgrounds, there is nothing to stop them from using the entire area.

There were no concrete figures laid out for what the commissioners thought would be the appropriate price for the fairgrounds, but Yoder did suggest raising fees for certain portions of the fairgrounds to $200 - $250. Commissioner Libby Marsh said she is not sure the rental fees should be raised that high. Commissioner Jackie Bondar agreed with Marsh.

“It is not a secret the fairgrounds have been a good deal for people,” Marsh said. “I’m worried about what would happen if we go too high.”

Yoder said he came to that conclusion after reviewing the rental prices for neighboring counties. Marsh said she is unsure if that is a fair comparison.

“I wonder what our buildings look like compared to theirs,” Marsh said. “I don’t think our facilities are in line with what we are comparing them to.”

Marsh said the county receives complaints about some of the facilities, mentioning the kitchen specifically. Commissioner Tom McCauley said he thinks raising the rental fees to around what Yoder suggested would be fair.

“I think $250 is pretty reasonable to get that kind of space,” he said. “Where else are you going to get that for that price.”

Marsh asked what would be done with the extra money collected from the increased fees, to which Yoder responded the money would stay within the fairgrounds budget. He said that money would go into improving what the fairgrounds offer. However, he also said the county would be hard pressed to allocate funds to improving the fairgrounds if it cannot keep the its budget in the black to begin with.

One reason Yoder mentioned for increasing the price of the fairgrounds rental fees is in order to bring larger events to the area that would increase tourism rates. He said as of now, because of how cheap it is to rent the fairgrounds, the majority of events are smaller in nature.

“If we are going to fill the fairgrounds with these smaller events, we’re missing out on bigger events that could bring in more people to the area.” he said.

Yoder mentioned one event in particular called Brews and Canoes. He said the event will be coming to the area next year, but not this year because the weekend they wanted was already taken. He said the county should be taking a proactive approach to renting out the fairgrounds and soliciting different events to come to the area.

The commissioners also discussed finding a way to more effectively rent out portions of the fairgrounds in order to capitalize on days when there are multiple smaller events looking to take place on the same day. They also spoke of possibly increasing the camping fees at the fairgrounds. The commissioners said if the prices were to change, it would have no effect on the events that have already rented out the fairgrounds for this year.

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